Mon, Jun 29, 2009 - Page 9 News List

US officials often take secret trips out of jurisdiction

Wealthy governors and mayors disappear from their states or cities more often than one might think. What they do on these trips usually remains a closely guarded secret


They do it more often than you might think. Now and again, a governor or mayor will drop out of sight for a day or three, whether for quiet rest and relation, political work or to visit a significant other. And some do it so often that the public and the press have come to take it for granted.

When he first took office in 2002, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly refused to tell reporters where he was on weekends. (On at least one occasion, Bermuda, it turned out.) The mayor’s secretiveness prompted the New York Post to print an image of a milk carton with the mayor’s picture on it.

These days, Bloomberg, who owns homes in London and Vail, Colorado, as well as Bermuda, still jets off on weekend getaways without telling the City Hall press corps where he is going, or even that he will be gone. But it is no longer news.

Ditto with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who attracted much attention when he was first elected for taking off for parts unknown. Unlike Bloomberg, however, Schwarzenegger’s office usually notifies reporters when he is out of California — even if they do not say precisely where — as they did last week with this typically terse advisory: “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has left the state.”

Another wealthy politician, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, has also become famous for his out-of-state jaunts, few of which are listed on his public schedule. In 2007, the New York Times became aware of Corzine’s frequent absences only after someone close to the State Senate president, the man in charge while the governor is away, casually mentioned that he would be acting governor, again, that weekend.

What Messrs. Corzine, Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg do on their many private trips usually remain closely guarded secrets. But their aides point out that they stay in close touch via BlackBerrys and cellphones and take appropriate steps to ensure that power is transferred to a second in command when they leave town. It appears little of that happened with South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford when he disappeared last weekend.

Laws concerning succession of power when governors leave their states or mayors leave their cities vary from place to place. There are certainly no standard rules when it comes to notifying reporters when a governor or mayor is on the road, officials and experts say.

In Connecticut, Governor M. Jodi Rell is required to send a letter when she leaves the state notifying the lieutenant governor that he shall “exercise the powers and authority and perform the duties appertaining to the office of governor” until she returns. A spokesman for Rell, Adam Liegeot, said that as a general practice, members of the local news media are informed whenever she leaves the state, even if it is to visit New York.

Not so in Florida, where Governor Charlie Crist is not required to turn over power when he leaves the state. Erin Isaac, communications director for Crist, said her office does not notify the news media when the governor travels on political or personal business.

“But if people ask, we tell them,” Isaac said.

At least one governor, Tim Kaine of Virginia, took Sanford to task for his disappearance. Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, criticized Sanford, a Republican, for traveling without his security detail and being out of touch for several days.

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